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Virus Alert, Protect Your Body And Computer

Careful of those hands
Careful of those hands
Carl-Johan Karlsson

Before COVID-19, when we heard the word "virus," most of us thought about our computers. Cyber-security terminology has borrowed from the biological world because of the similar ways that viruses spread and can be combated. Both rely on hosts for transmission and can be prevented by immunity, which for a computer comes in the form of antivirus software rather than the injection of a vaccine. Perhaps the most important similarity is that computer viruses also spread surreptitiously, often causing serious damage before being detected. In other words, both are pretty scary.

Although the term computer virus was coined already in the 1980s, it was popularized the following decade by a swelling genre of cyber movies (remember Hackers?) as well as the first real-life public malware scare in 1992 when the Michelangelo virus — named after the famous painter with the same March 6 birthday — spread to some 5 million computers, mainly through floppy disks.

Of course, talking about computer viruses when a real-life pandemic is still wreaking havoc across the world may raise eyebrows. Yet, one clear side effect of the current health crisis is that more and more of our lives, particularly working lives, are moving online. The cyber-security risks, for example, in the proliferation of Zoom and other video conferences puts everything from our images to our passwords at risk of exploitation.

As our economy becomes more digitized, faceless and harder to understand, the stakes are bound to keep rising. Yet, advances in computing could help us learn lessons to fight both health and cyber threats, as pointed out in a recent article in Welcome to the Jungle about those combating viruses in our computers and our bodies: "With both disciplines plotting similar paths toward data-driven threat response, there is surely considerable benefit for both in gaining a greater understanding of each other's strategies, successes, and challenges."

Nobody right now expects either virtual or biological viruses to be eradicated any time soon, and we've learned that our fate remains largely in our own hands — which you should wash regularly, and use to change your passwords at least once a month.

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Brazil's Evangelical Surge Threatens Survival Of Native Afro-Brazilian Faith

Followers of the Afro-Brazilian Umbanda religion in four traditional communities in the country’s northeast are resisting pressure to convert to evangelical Christianity.

image of Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Agencia Publica
Géssica Amorim

Among a host of images of saints and Afro-Brazilian divinities known as orixás, Abel José, 42, an Umbanda priest, lights some candles, picks up his protective beads and adjusts the straw hat that sits atop his head. He is preparing to treat four people from neighboring villages who have come to his house in search of spiritual help and treatment for health ailments.

The meeting takes place discreetly, in a small room that has been built in the back of the garage of his house. Abel lives in the quilombo of Sítio Bredos, home to 135 families. The community, located in the municipality of Betânia of Brazil’s northeastern state of Pernambuco, is one of the municipality’s four remaining communities that have been certified as quilombos, the word used to refer to communities formed in the colonial era by enslaved Africans and/or their descendents.

In these villages there are almost no residents who still follow traditional Afro-Brazilian religions. Abel, Seu Joaquim Firmo and Dona Maura Maria da Silva are the sole remaining followers of Umbanda in the communities in which they live. A wave of evangelical missionary activity has taken hold of Betânia’s quilombos ever since the first evangelical church belonging to the Assembleia de Deus group was built in the quilombo of Bredos around 20 years ago. Since then, other evangelical, pentecostal, and neo-pentecostal churches and congregations have established themselves in the area. Today there are now nine temples spread among the four communities, home to roughly 900 families.

The temples belong to the Assembleia de Deus, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the World Church of God's Power, the latter of which has over 6,000 temples spread across Brazil and was founded by the apostle and televangelist Valdemiro Santiago, who became infamous during the pandemic for trying to sell beans that he had blessed as a Covid-19 cure. Assembleia de Deus alone, who are the largest pentecostal denomination in the world, have built five churches in Betânia’s quilombos.

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